This morning I'm reading deBeauxOs post on the Sandusky paedophile case at Penn State, which describes the mocking heaped on one alumni by defenders of athletic staff accused of covering up the problem. This tendency to defend and dismiss the indefensible is as an aspect of human nature that never ceases to disgust me, although it does not surprise me anymore.
Years ago, there was instructor on a course I took who would force his troops to shower in front of him as "punishment". He would order them to repeatedly cover themselves in suds and rinse, gazing away to "make sure they washed properly." This man also did other things as extra-curricular punishment, which once or twice resulted in injured troops. However, some of the victims quickly learned who their friends were when they decided to raise these problems with higher authority.
It's appalling to see people start downplaying affects or even defend the abuser when push comes to shove and they might actually have to take a stand and upset their lives a little.
You see this same phenomenon happen on larger social scales too. In right-wingers who defend their 50+ hour workweek as evidence of their fortitude or nationalism and smear those who advocate fairer labour practises. In people unwilling to step-up and support a coworker or friend. In people who witness assaults and accidents but avoid reporting it or intervening. In those who advise friends not to stand-up for themselves or others not matter what the cost. In police sadists and their Crown enablers who are unable to hold themselves to account. In acquiescence to rising tyrants and the ongoing destruction of planetary life-support systems.
I like to think this wasn't often the case in simpler times, when we lived in smaller groups and knew each other. When security of the group relied on mutual support and effective mechanisms of community justice for dealing with the occasional monster. When hierarchies were flatter and people has less to fear from those with authority, and authority more from those with less.